The Two Bulls Fire broke out on Sunday, June 8th west of Bend, Oregon. It traveled 6 miles the first day, threatening homes and requiring evacuations. Recognizing the importance of keeping people informed, a Joint Information Center (JIC) was quickly set up at the Deschutes County Sherriff’s Office. This is the first time that central Oregon has utilized a JIC on a fire. In addition to a liaison with Fire Command and Operations, the JIC included representatives from organizations such as Public Health (smoke impacts), the City & County (surface water was threatened), the Red Cross and the local School District (school closures) – a variety of partners who had a stake in the daily outcomes of the fire operation.
In addition to traditional news sources, the JIC employed social media. It was clear that critical, accurate information needed to be easily accessible to the public and updated frequently. The JIC and the information unit on the fire used a Facebook page, a twitter feed and a blog to push information as quickly as possible. The “likes” on facebook grew to over 10,000 the first day with a reach over 215,000 people.
“In 2014, the demand for instant and constantly updated information is fierce,” said Katie Lighthall, Coordinator for Cohesive Strategy in the West. “The Two Bulls Fire provided a great opportunity to utilize a JIC and new communication tools to coordinate accurate and timely information and ensure consistency across the partners,” Lighthall added.
Photo credit: Kelly Huskey